No Man’s Land Film Festival: Redefining femininity in adventure sports

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The University of Connecticut Rec Center hosted a virtual screening of the No Man’s Land Film Festival on Sunday night, showcasing a series of short films and documentaries highlighting women breaking down barriers in the realm of adventure.  

The event was available from 5 – 10 p.m. and students had to register beforehand to receive a link and password to the screening. The screening itself was only 93 minutes long, so students could watch it at any point within the time window.  

According to its website, the No Man’s Land Film Festival is an annual festival based out of the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Each film explores the story of a woman-identifying individual who is redefining what it means to be feminine through sport and adventure. Many of the issues presented in the films are those of diversity, and show women actively trying to increase racial or gender diversity in the sport or hobby they’re involved with.  

One of the films that stood out most was one about Brazilian ballet dancer Ingrid Silva. The short film was filmed from a first-person perspective and takes viewers through an intimate retelling of Silva’s upbringing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo courtesy of author.

One of the films that stood out most was one about Brazilian ballet dancer Ingrid Silva. The short film was filmed from a first-person perspective and takes viewers through an intimate retelling of Silva’s upbringing in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. From there, the audience travels with her to a small apartment in Harlem, New York and watch her go through the motions of bandaging her injuries from ballet while working as a waitress until she lands an audition with a ballet company. The audience then learns she became a professional dancer for the Dance Theatre of Harlem in 2008.  

Another noteworthy short film was about an all-female organization of teens in the Bronx known as BRUJAS. The group engages with each other and develops community through their passion for skateboarding, art and political organizing. Many of the subjects in the short documentary discuss the sense of community and security the organization brings. Despite bonding through skating, BRUJAS also hosts educational events on police abolition and politics.  

The No Man’s Land Film Festival is at its heart about following women who are determined to achieve their goals, no matter what obstacles they may face. These tales range from the story of a blind woman learning to swim, to a group of students in Ethiopia who are training to become the best runners, to a group of conservationists trying to protect national monuments that are under threat from the current administration. 

Another noteworthy short film was about an all-female organization of teens in the Bronx known as BRUJAS. The group engages with each other and develops community through their passion for skateboarding, art and political organizing. Photo courtesy of author.

Although this is the first time the UConn Rec Center has hosted the No Man’s Land Film Festival, it’s not the first time they have showcased film festival screenings. In the past, the Rec Center has hosted the “Radical Reels” and “World Tour” programs of the Banff Centre Mountain Film Festival, according to Assistant Program Director for Outdoor Programs Leah Rossettie. 

“This semester was obviously very different from years past and the NMLFF was able to provide us with a way to host an entirely virtual screening for our community and we are very excited to be able to share their stories with our students in a safe way, from wherever they physically are,” Rossettie said in an email. 

The inspiring stories of women at the No Man’s Land Film Festival may prompt students to get more involved in the outdoors. Luckily, the UConn Rec Center offers many outdoor programs for students of all skill levels. They offer various equipment rentals for patrons who are comfortable with adventuring on their own, but they also have beginner-friendly programs for activities such as rock climbing or snowshoeing. A full list of the UConn Rec Center’s offering of events is posted online

“We hope to inspire people to get outside, be active, and connect with friends,” Rossettie said. “Even if we can’t physically gather, we can still connect socially to share stories, spark conversations, and make plans for how we will celebrate when it is safe for us [to] get together again.” 

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